Basic Truths of Any Church

Part 2 of a 5 part Series…
Please refer to archived post for previous blog. This is from a document written by a pastor from 4 years ago.

As the pastor serving Green Pines and teaching the word of God, there seems to be an understanding in Scripture of church authority that I don’t see in this local expression of the church.  And so I want to  present some statements to you that are right there in Scripture.  These are not statements original to me, but are clearly connected to the verses included.  John Piper was instrumental  in helping me see the simplicity of these statements.  I bring this Scripture to you to consider and pray together.
1. Jesus Christ is the head of his church.
So the church is like a body that gets its leadership and its nourishment from its head, Jesus Christ. The church is not a mere human organization. It is not a mere organization because it is an organism, a body. And it is not merely human, because its head is divine; the life he gives is supernatural life. So the way a church is run should not simply copy the way a human organization is run. There should be structures and practices that let Christ the head govern, lead, and nurture his church. Our structures should flow from who Christ has declared us to be.  He has declared us as His fellowship, body, flock, and bride.  Therefore the structure should point to unity, operate by Spiritual gifting, be led by shepherds, and revolve around Christ.  A bad structure may emphasis differences and restrict ministry changes, and revolve around tradition.

This governance was given through the authority of the apostles and their close associates (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 7:17; 14:37-38; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Today Christ still rules through the words of his apostles as they are given to us in the inspired writings of the New Testament. Therefore, we want to conform the structure and procedures and spirit of church governance as closely as possible to New Testament guidelines.  The end goal is to promoting the glory of God and the proclamation of the gospel (1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 1:25).

This governance is also mediated through the Holy Spirit.

2. All the members of Christ’s body are Priests and Ministers.

1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Revelation 1:5–6, “He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”

The New Testament does not teach the priesthood of the clergy. 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one God and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” We all go directly to God through Christ, not through professional priests nor through Mary. Every Christian is a priest under Jesus Christ.

And every Christian is a minister. The word “minister” does not define my pastoral office in the church. It defines my function. And it defines your function. Ephesians 4:12 says that pastors and teachers exist to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” You are all ministers (cf. 1 Peter 4:10–11). And you are all priests (cf. Matthew 23:8–11).

A good church structure will free the members to the primary ministry of the church, which is to make disciple-making disciples of Christ.  Therefore secondary ministry (those which support the primary ministry) should be kept minimal to allow more time on the primary ministry.

3. Under Christ the local congregation is the final authority in the church.

I don’t mean that the congregation is above the Scriptures, because the Scriptures are the word of Christ. We submit to Christ by submitting to his word in the Bible. Nor do I mean that the congregation is above the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. We submit to Christ by submitting to his Spirit in the church.

What I mean is that under Christ—his Word and his Spirit—the congregation, and not church officers, is the body that settles matters of faith and life. This is not only implied in the priesthood of all believers, but illustrated in Matthew 18:15–17 where the church is the last court of appeal in church discipline:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:4–5.)

So the church—the congregation—is the final court of appeal in matters of church discipline where decisions about membership are made. Since this is the most basic authority in the church under Christ, this shows that the congregation as a body is the final authority in the local church. This does not mean local churches shouldn’t form associations and fellowships for mutual encouragement and guidance and ministry. It only means that the local congregation decides its own matters under the Word and Spirit of Christ.

So far then, Christ is the head of the church. All members of his body are priests and ministers. And therefore these members, as a congregation, are the final authority in the church under Christ, that is, under his Word and Spirit.

4. God calls some members of each congregation to feed and lead the church as servants of Christ and his people.

In other words, even though there is equality before God as children and heirs and priests and ministers, some, and not all, are called by God to serve as leaders. For example,

Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith.”

Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.”

1 Thessalonians 5:12, “We beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”

Acts 20:28 (speaking to the elders of Ephesus), “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God.”

So the congregation, under Christ and by his Word and Spirit, uses its authority to recognize and affirm leaders whom God calls. And then the congregation puts those people in positions of leadership and voluntarily supports that leadership by learning from their teaching and following their initiatives.

This may sound to some like a contradiction—to have an authoritative congregation submitting to leaders that it puts in place. But it isn’t a contradiction. Because there is a great difference between leadership that inspires and models and mobilizes and teaches and persuades and points the way in ministry and mission, and the corporate authority of the congregation that puts doctrinal and moral boundaries around that leadership and holds it accountable to serve the good of the church. Congregational authority and strong leadership under that authority are not incompatible. They are biblical, and they are vital.

Jarrod Scott

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Why Elders Now?

(Note: This will be a five part blog series on the role of elders )

In response to this question, we can speak about this generally in regards to Baptist churches and about our church specifically. For most of those living today, elder leadership seems like a new phase or fad. However, for most of the church history, including Baptist history, there has been a form of eldership leadership that begins with the New Testament. When we look at the plain reading of the New Testament, the concept of elders is hard to overlook.
There are many samples and evidences of Baptist acknowledging an office that is titled both as elder and pastor. Some samples include: The Charleston Association’s 1774 Summary of Church Discipline; W.B. Johnson, the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote “each [New Testament] church had a plurality of elders” in The Gospel Developed and he developed the duties and benefits of a plurality of elders. In 1849, J.L. Reynolds, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond Virginia, supported a plurality of elders in his Church Polity or the Kingdom of Christ. Other notable advocates of plurality of elders include: C.H. Spurgeon and J.L. Burrows pastor of First Baptist Church, Richmond in his book What Baptist Believe. There are other evidences that plurality of elders were normal up to the
beginning of the twentieth century. (Most of the above research comes from Mark Dever’s book, By whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life)

For most of the twentieth century, Baptists have seen church leadership influenced more by the rising business corporate environment of the twentieth century as well as the military leadership culture. The corporate business world and military chain of command have utilized and shaped many of our men and church leaders for the last hundred years. In both of these environments, the authoritarian ruler or the
trustee board takes prevalence. The popularity of these leadership models has affected congregational churches.

In the late 1970’s the Southern Baptist entered the “Inerrancy controversy “ or conservative resurgence. The leadership of churches, convention, and seminaries were debating the role of the Bible among the churches and seminaries. This period lasted 15 years until all of the Southern Baptist seminaries were led in a Biblical inerrant direction. Once this issue was resolved, Seminaries were free to continue in the teaching and application of the Bible for the future church leaders. More students were focusing on what the Bible has to say about church leadership. Now that most pastors in our seminaries are not debating the inerrancy of the Bible, there is a freedom to reevaluate leadership and apply the Bible.

It was in the late 1970s and early 1980’s, that I began to hear about elders in church leadership with the start of Providence Baptist in Raleigh. The popularity of teachings by men like John MacArthur, John Piper, and Mark Dever and their view on elders began to impact a generation of church leaders. Today, there are growing numbers of Southern Baptist churches, even in our area that are led with a plurality of elders. Some of those other churches include not only Providence but also North Wake Baptist, Christ Baptist, First Baptist Durham, Central Baptist in Wendell, Imago Deo, Treasuring Christ, Summit Church, Open Door Baptist, as well as many other churches. While I was in Seminary, the elder question was one I wrestled with since my tradition was that of a committee led church with a single pastor. I came to conclude that the New Testament did acknowledge a plurality of elders, but I defined that group of
elders as the pastors in a church.

Jarrod Scott

Finally, Vacation!

The Best

Vacations are the best, and the worst.  The beach in summer, the mountains of autumn, a cruise ship when it’s not hurricane season, the ski slopes in winter, and so, so many more.  The options are endless, even when the resources are not.  But vacations are vacations because you are out of your routines.  It could be the routine of where you live.  Just being somewhere else is enjoyment enough.  Staying somewhere different changes everything.  The food tastes better, the tv shows are more interesting, bedtimes are optional, puzzles somehow are inviting, even the dishes are better than your ordinary ones.  One of the things I love is driving to the destination.  Along the way, I get to flip the radio stations and discover songs being played I haven’t heard in a long time.  Classic country, or some rock songs from my youth, or even the pop stuff from the 70s, it all sounds better when going on vacation.

The Worst

But vacations don’t help at all if you’ve been trying to eat good, or if you’ve got a workout routine, or if you have a particular morning schedule.  Sure, you can be careful with your meals, and exercise is possible in a myriad of forms, but vacations have a way of eroding the resolve and changing the priorities.  Enjoying the moment, treating yourself and others to what you usually consider extravagant pleasures, sleeping at odd hours of the day (and night), all of these seem to be part of the arrangement when you take on a temporarily new address.  And so, I think it’s pretty obvious how one could make a spiritual application to being on vacation and letting certain good things fall by the wayside.  But beyond that predictable point, I want to highlight one other facet of vacation.

The Eternal

Being away awakens within us a joy and pleasure that the rigors of daily life beat down.  Responsibilities of work and issues within the home do not necessarily disappear, but vacation allows us to focus on something different, something more permanent than a career and a tidy home.  Vacation turns our heart in a fresh direction, quickened by new surroundings and unique opportunities.  And God is there amidst it all.  The trick is to see and experience Him when your old zip code returns.  And that requires some effort on your part.  Choices have to be made, to do and to not do.  Joy has to be prized and grasped, and defeat and discouragement left to die on their own.  Vacations are the best.  They only become the worst when we don’t bring them home with us, when we save the joy and contentment for strangers out of town.  So, take a vacation, right where you are.  Break a routine, choose a different reaction, enjoy what you have been abundantly blessed with.  You don’t need to pack up and go to get the best of what God has for you.

Rich Holt

Living with Hurricanes

Image result for Hurricane Irma

In the last few days and the next few days, the topic peppering most every conversation in this area is hurricanes.  We are praying for the people in Texas and contemplating where “Irma” is going to go.  At this point, we may be considering what supplies we have in stock in case a hurricane hits our area.  For those of us living in North Carolina, this is a ritual we go through every August and September, though the season continues through November.  I personally am relieved when we get through September without a major hit.  Perhaps this is because I endured “Fran” in September of 1996. As I watched the news and tracked the storm projection, I had memories of the feelings from experiencing hurricane “Fran”.  Fear was a powerful memory and I could sense it creeping into my mind as I watched the weatherman explain the projections.  Interesting fear was the first memory, but it took a few days to remember the feeling of God’s care and protection I sensed in the storm.  Why is it the first memory is fear and anxiety, but it took days to recall faith and God’s power?

Reading Psalms helps us to move from fear to faith as we use God’s Word in prayer.  I would encourage you to read Psalm 86 when you sense a hurricane coming into your life.

Jarrod Scott

 

“Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly, save your servant, who trusts in you – you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant for to you,
O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O LORD are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD to my prayer, listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I will call upon you for you answer me.”
Psalm 86:1-7